Profiles in Education: Brian Galvin

We’re back with the next installment in our “Instructors with a Passion for Education series.” Veritas Prep not only has a number of experienced GMAT instructors worldwide, but many of those instructors have also pursued education as a lifelong career. The Veritas Prep faculty includes college professors, educational PhDs and Ed. Ds, schoolteachers and administrators, and many others for whom teaching is a passion and not a job. We interviewed a few instructors to learn more about their passion for education, and to show how this passion has translated into the Veritas Prep classroom experience. Our latest interview is with Brian Galvin, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor in Los Angeles (and author of many of our best blog posts!).

Who is Brian Galvin?
Brian is not only a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor, but he is also a full time employee at Malibu HQ. As the Director of Academic Programs, Brian works closely with our instructors worldwide to schedule them for upcoming courses, keep them in the loop on new GMAT information, and he helped develop the curriculum for our latest GMAT books. When asked about his education, he explained, “I do have a Masters in Education. And actually it was my Veritas Prep teaching experience that motivated me to go to school for education. Having gotten a BBA from Ross as an undergrad, I assumed I’d get an MBA as my grad degree (hence my GMAT appearance and all that), but once I started teaching for Veritas in the evenings I really grew to love teaching and to want to learn more about how to best convey information to students.

“I was working with really smart students who had surprising knowledge gaps and difficulties with high school level concepts, and it was a really fun challenge trying to figure out how to make things click for them. So I started researching education opportunities and went back to Michigan in their MAC program (Master of Arts with Teaching Certification) with the short-term goal of becoming a high school teacher.” Through his part-time teaching job with Veritas Prep, Brian discovered his passion for education and now explores education daily in his full-time career.

Influential Teachers
When asked about a favorite class, Brian explained, “I had a couple favorite classes in grad school, and while the content of the classes was fairly interesting (one was a seminar within our “Teaching With Technology” curriculum, focusing on an online simulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict; the other was about educational research techniques), it was more because of the professors and the way that they modeled what a great teacher does. Jeff Stanzler and Patricia Kenney were amazing education professors and truly walked the walk with all the educational theory they were teaching. A lot of what I learned from them came during office hours (and even happy hours…we had a fun group) when I’d ask them about the techniques they were using to teach teaching technique (how “meta”) and see the way that they were structuring those lessons that were keeping me on the edge of my seat. Jeff – and this doesn’t come off at all in writing – had this style of “active listening”; he’d ask a question and as a student you’d try to give your best response, and while you were talking he was zoned all the way in, leaning forward, down on one knee, truly trying to process what it was you were thinking.

“And here’s the best part – it didn’t matter what you said…he’d find the relevant value in there and redirect it in a way that enlightened the class and made it seem as though you had found the holy grail of responses. And I try to add that to every interaction I have as a Veritas teacher – if I ask you for the square root of 16 and you tell me it’s 9, I promise you that I’ll find a way to take what you said, acknowledge that part of your thought process that’s valuable (“9 is also a perfect square, so we’re definitely thinking along the right lines…”) and then redirect it into something valuable for the class. Jeff and Pat taught me a lot about that student-teacher relationship and how to maximize the value of it to create an interactive, productive classroom. For that I’m eternally grateful and we employ a lot of those techniques now here at Veritas Prep.” Brian always keeps his Veritas Prep classes active and engaged. Like Jeff, Brian also works to turn any answer into a relevant one for the question at hand. He loves to help his students discover answers and reasons behind them, rather than simply explaining an answer.

Why Education?
“Having made the decision to invest time and tuition in an education grad program I had to justify this a lot, and what I ultimately came up with was this: much of business to me is asking the question “what can you do for me?”. I was in sales for the Detroit Pistons – a dream job when I got it – and spent so much time networking and grubbing for leads, upsells, etc. that I always felt like I was nagging people to make me money. What I preferred was asking the question “what can I do for you?” – how can I help you better understand something you’re struggling with. During my day job I’d teach my coworkers about their company 401k plan, or the computer system, or the benefits of endurance sports or whatever. And at night I’d teach Veritas classes. And whenever I could be in a position to help someone else, I preferred it. So education spoke to me because it was rewarding – I always felt good about what I was doing. And it’s a challenge – when someone doesn’t understand something there’s a reason why, and when you dig into that reason you get to be analytical as well as helpful. So teaching spoke to both of those sides of my brain – my need to analyze and problem-solve, and my need to feel like I had some kind of altruistic purpose.

And that’s what I love about working for Veritas Prep. At our core, we’re an education company. We help people learn what it takes to get into top schools so that they can further their careers. You get to feel that impact of helping others and because the GMAT and MBA Admissions are such interesting, highly-competitive fields you get to satisfy that competitive nature and sense of problem solving, too. There’s always a challenge and there’s always a reward, and that’s what keeps education so engaging and fun.”

Brian always tries to teach with current information so his students can stay engaged and enjoy the class as much as possible. He often uses references from pop culture, especially the hip hop world. You can read a lot of his writing in our “GMAT Tip of the Week” blog articles to see what we mean. He encourages students to write their own GMAT problems so they can begin to ‘Think Like the Testmaker.’ If you’re lucky enough to take a class with him, he may even show you how to dougie, or at least fist pump like they do in Jersey Shore.

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